i hate the term "retarded" and "that's so gay." a friend and i have an ongoing dispute about retarded. he says it is now in common venacular as meaning stupid, so he highly doubts it would offend anyone who is (or is family of) someone who is mentally handicapped. i think that's a load of crap. i have challenged him on whether he would say that in the presence of a mother/father/sibling/person with a disability. he says he wouldn't monitor himself... which is absolute BS. that makes me see RED.

i also can't stand the word panties. i wrote a post about that a few weeks back, so now my family and friends are enjoying saying it to me as much as possible (see, i also can't stand hearing it)


Somewhere in my email files I used to have a really great article someone sent me on what is wrong with the word panties--I wish I could find it. It IS an upsetting word, and I quit using it long ago--but then, I was a practing Mormon, which meant that when I reached adulthood, I quit wearing normal underwear you can buy in a store in order to wear "the temple garment," this very unflattering, impractical underwear consisting of a top with cap sleeves and pants that comes to your knee. (In case you've never heard about the Mormon secret underwear, I swear to god, I am not making this up.) Anyway, when I defected from the church and had to give up this strange holy underwear which was much looser in the crotch, I found it hard to return to the normal kind. All I care about now is how comfortable it is.

The Happy Feminist

Ooh I missed the panties post Aisy.

And I have known a lot of Mormons, but I have never ever ever heard of the temple garment. I guess it's not the sort of thing that comes up in the normal course of conversation!


The trouble I have with "Asian" is that it's so broad. It is usually used for East Asian, but you can be from Afghanistan and be Asian. Or Siberia. Technically I guess you could be from Lebanon, but most would use "Middle Eastern" for this. And does the thinking that Oriental is bad because it's only in relation to "the West" pertain to that too? Middle of what East? I never know what is the "Near East", seems like "middle" goes all the way to the Mediterranean. And is it okay to call people in Europe part of the "West"? I can see Americans being West, as we are in the Western Hemisphere, but Europe? They are only West in regards to the East. People also don't typically use "West" for South America, although it too is in the Western Hemisphere.

The acceptable terms are always changing. Idiot and moron used to be the proper and actual medical terms for the retarded. But they were used offensively, so they changed it. Now retarded is offensive although a medically proper term, what will the new word be that all must use? Same goes for African-American. Many people I know who have that label prefer "black". In the end I go around asking people all the time what they would like for me to say.

I tell you this stuff is hard for old people such as myself.

The Happy Feminist

I am pretty sure either "black" or "African-American" are fine.

I think it behooves us to be sensitive about our word choices but it also behooves us to be sensitive to the fact that some people may use certain word choices without any malicious intent.


I agree with so much here, HF. I hate "retarded" and "gay" used as insults, just as I (an animal-lover) hate words like "pig," "dog," or "cockroach" used as slurs. I'm sick of Eagles' fans taunting the "Dallas Cowgirls" and of getting paired up with men who say, "Hit it harder, Alice," or something like that whenever another guy leaves a putt eight inches short.

I'm amazed that anyone could think "jewed them down" is in any way acceptable. I WILL cut slack for "Oriental," as I think some people have simply been led to believe that this is the accepted term, just as I used to think (I mean years and years ago) that "Polack" was the proper word for "Polish person."

Words for Native Americans and African-Americans are never quite accurate. They're not Indians, obviously, and anyone born here is a native American, but there you are. Ernie Els is a Caucasian golfer from South Africa. If he emigrates here, should he be called an African-American? And African-Americans with light skin believe that they're not "black" in the literal sense and so it's an innaccurate way to depict them.

I refer to myself as a "boy" as an adherence to youth. I can usually tell when someone calls me a "boy" out of affection and when it's done to insult. I'm cautious about using the word around African-Americans, and I'm cautious about using the word "girl" towards women in some situations. In a chat room I frequent, I'll refer to online female friends as "girl" or "grrrrl" or something like that, but we all know how we use the word "girl" and "boy" to describe ourselves. I'm not one of those guys who calls himself a man and females his age "girls." That sounds like the most egregious offender you're talking about.

"Idiot and moron used to be the proper and actual medical terms for the retarded. But they were used offensively, so they changed it."

You're so right. A term will be an acceptable clinical or social term, but then it will begin to be used as an insult, and then it can't be used as the clinical or social term. "Crippled people" became "handicapped persons" became "the disabled" became "motionally challenged." "Remedial students" became "slow" became "special" something else that was misused.

BOY Genteel
Men's Rights = Women's Rights = Human Rights

The Happy Feminist

Of course, members of a group or people close to them can use a term to refer to themselves either ironically or as a way of "appropriating" the term. My husband is a paraplegic and "gimpy" or "little lame boy" are among my pet names for him. We also talk about trying to find a "crippled" parking spot.


My son used to get a huge kick out of it when his grandfather would say to people, "You're looking very gay today!" with absolutely no sense of irony.


oooh, I hate it when clients call me "honey", "sweetie", "hon" or (one client is just weird) "sweet love". It's so annoying because I'm not in the position to tell them not to do it (I am just a lowly associate). With the honey/sweetie/hon guys, I always have this insane urge to either call them "babycakes" or ask them if they'd like their hashbrowns smothered or covered (a al the Waffle House waitresses). Usually I just grit my teeth and remind myself that they are paying an obscene amount of money to talk to me.
The absolute worst, though, has to be this old fart of a client who repeatedly has conversations with me over the phone regarding legal issues and then interjects in the middle "are you sure you're an attorney, hon?" No, I'm just a phone sex operator who talks about estoppel and punitive damages FOR FUN. Dumbass.

The Happy Feminist

Ooh, I hate "hon." I usually get it from older women or waitresses.

I did have opposing counsel refer to a judge as "Pretty pretty Judge Smith" which kind of gave me the creeps.

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